Georg Friedrich Handel – Serse
Serse: Franco Fagioli, Arsamene: Vivica Genaux, Amastre: Delphine Galou, Ariodate: Andrea Mastroni, Romilda: Inga Kalna, Atalanta: Francesca Aspromonte, Elviro: Biagio Pizzuti
Il Pomo d’Oro
on period instruments
Maxim Emelyanychev, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 2018
The Revival of Serse
Handel’s opera Serse, based on a libretto which was already set to music by Giovanni Bononcini, was not a success. It was premiered at the King’s Theatre on the Haymarket on 15 April 1738, and flopped after five performances.
It took two centuries before the opera was revived. Serse’s aria Ombra mai fu has become one of most popular pieces of Baroque vocal music, but the rest of the opera is still unknown by a wide audience.
The present recording is therefore a chance – and an excellent one – to familiarize with Serse. In fact, its outstanding result is the best introduction an uncommon work may have.
The main reason of interest of this Serse is the presence of two distinguished singers as Franco Fagioli and Vivica Genaux. They, as well as the other singers, bring something fresh and valuable that makes this recording a brilliant achievement.
Franco Fagioli (Serse)
Countertenor Franco Fagioli already recorded Serse’s arias from the first and the third act, Ombra mai fu and Crude furie degl’orridi abissi in his latest recording (Handel Arias). Now, that performance appears as a test-bed for the recording of entire role. Expectations were considerably high, as Fagioli superbly sang those two pieces, but, luckily, he does not fail to enthuse.
On a technical level, Fagioli is admirable for his perfect coloratura and his breath control, which allows him to exhaust long phrases and vocal tour-de-force without effort, but there is much more than this in his performance.
With his bright and warm voice, abundant musicality and prodigious technique, Fagioli depicts a character which is equally impressive from the musical and the psychological points of view. As Serse, he reveals himself not only as a master of all the ornaments that embellish Baroque music, but he is remarkable also for his sensibility and insight.
Serse’s humanity shines beyond the vocal acrobatics that Fagioli carries out so finely and his feelings and moods are precisely and keenly represented. This profundity contributes to enrich the character with unpredictable nuances and to make him alive.
The Other Singers
As Arsamene, Vivica Genaux sings with pathos and intensity and her fine musicianship helps her to portray in a multifaceted way an extraordinary role. Although her voice does not have a pure timbre, Genaux is anyway impressive for the pathos of her lyrical, smooth singing. Her Arsamene has therefore a distinguished “dark” colour.
Delphine Galou as Amastre is outstanding of her vocal commitment and for the dramatic power of her performance. She is definitely the one among the signers who has the strongest temperament. Her performance is characterized not only by steadiness, but also by imposing significance.
Andrea Mastroni is noteworthy for the wonderfully dark timbre of his voice and for his elegant phrasing, which brings authoritativeness to his Ariodate. His vocal agility is amazingly exemplified by the aria Soggetti al mio volere.
Francesca Aspromonte brings vocal clarity and charm to the role of Atalanta, which she sings with commendable grace and elegance. Especially in her first aria, Un cenno leggiadretto, she is disarming for the way in which she embellishes this delightful aria.
As for their part, Inga Kalna is a skilful and vocally flawless Romilda and Biagio Pizzuti is a resourceful Elviro.
Maxim Emelyanychev’s conduction is full of brightness and colour and brings cohesiveness and warmth to Handel’s music.